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Pilot Shortage in news again

Old 21st Apr 2008, 00:20
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Pilot Shortage in news again

Pilot shortage leaves ski town without wings (
By Chris Pritchard April 21, 2008 12:00am

YOUR flight's been canceled? You're not alone and the situation could be worse.

For instance, there'll be something missing from Australia's highest-altitude airport at the Victorian ski resort of Mount Hotham during this year's season: the destination's entire scheduled air service has been scrapped.

Trying to cobble together alternatives, tourism officials suggest skiers fly instead to Albury and use road transfers from there.

"Or you could charter a light aircraft to get here," suggests a helpful information aide.

Mount Hotham is Australia's highest-profile victim of cuts to regional air services.

But, elsewhere across the country, the impact is also prompting muttered curses.

A few destinations have lost all services while others make do with fewer flights.

In places where timetables remain largely intact, a rising number of individual flights get the chop. What's more, planned expansion to new airports is on hold.

Regional centres bear the brunt of cutbacks but occasional flights are also cancelled on inter-city trunk routes.

The culprit this time isn't high fuel prices. It's a shortage of pilots - and experts maintain there's no solution on the horizon.

"We've been warning about this for a long time," says Colin Rodgers, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia. "But our predictions have fallen on deaf ears. As a country we've dropped the ball."

A prime cause of the aviation staffing pickle, says veteran airman Rodgers, is the cost of training.

"It's too high - it costs a young person around $100,000 to train to be a pilot.

"After they're trained on a small aircraft, if they want a career in the industry they begin with a small airline flying light aircraft in remote areas. They build up their hours and move on to one of the major regional airlines serving big towns.

"Next stop," says Rodgers, "is flying jets for one of the big national carriers. Some pilots make a very good career of this - while others move on to international flying for Australian or foreign airlines.

"There are many Australian pilots all over the world. Cathay Pacific and Emirates are just two foreign carriers with large numbers of Aussies working for them."

It's Rodgers' belief that pilot training has been a low priority for successive governments.

"If the politicians thought of it at all they believed any problems would sort themselves out. Well, they haven't.

"Politicians and bureaucrats certainly didn't foresee the predicament we're in today - with cancelled flights all over the place."

He urges more training facilities and greater financial help for would-be pilots.

"These measures should be put in place right away," he says. "But even if a greater emphasis is placed on training immediately, the situation won't change overnight. After all, it takes time to train pilots."

Rodgers' exasperation is shared by Derek Sadubin, chief operating officer of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.

"There's no quick fix," he notes. "We've talked about this for ages. Some helpful measures have been taken such as raising retirement ages to 65.

"But, overall, what's needed is greatly expanded training of young pilots.

"Meantime, we can expect more spikes in the incidence of cancellations - particularly on marginal routes when carriers decide they're unable to crew these flights.

"Complaints about airlines poaching pilots from other airlines are likely to increase."

Just how bad is the situation? Regional Express (Rex) estimates Australia will need an additional 1800 pilots over the next two years but will train well under half that number.

Rex, like all big operators in Australia (including QantasLink), has cancelled some flights.

As jobs open up at large airlines, small airlines often find it very difficult to recruit and keep pilots. (But the drift to big airlines isn't strong enough to end pilot shortages there.)

Little airlines in remote areas are hardest hit. Analysts expect some to go to the wall over the next 12 months.

Overseas, four United States airlines closed in recent weeks. Oasis Hong Kong Airlines, a long-haul budget carrier serving London and Vancouver, also stopped flying.

In all cases, rising fuel prices were blamed - but industry sources say difficulty obtaining pilots in an employees' market was also a factor.

In nations such as India, the Philippines and South Africa, an exodus of sorely-needed pilots wanting fatter pay-packets is blamed on poaching by other countries' airlines.

In Manila, the Philippines capital, the lament is often heard that the country spends considerable sums training pilots - who then leave in droves.

South African pilots, like Australians, often head to well-paying Middle Eastern airlines.

South African aviation websites feature success stories of pilots who have migrated to Australia. Jetstar and V Australia (Virgin Blue's not-yet-flying international offshoot) have recruited pilots from South Africa, say these websites.

An industry think-tank estimates Asia - where start-up low-cost carriers are fuelling rapid growth - will have a shortfall of 10,000 pilots by 2010.

The booming aviation industries of China and India, in particular, are desperately short of pilots.

China trains about 600 pilots annually but needs more than twice that many to keep up with demand, according to an analysis by the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

India requires 450 pilots immediately and will need 4500 more over the next five years, according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.

Even if extra pilots became available today - and this won't happen - there wouldn't be enough to soak up the shortfall, either in Australia or overseas.

"It's an inconvenient situation that's going to be with us for a while," observes the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation's Sadubin.
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 00:29
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for those that want to have a word thats not only on PPRuNe there is a comments section.

fill your boots.
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 01:27
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Then again, do you really want to add to rubbish like this?

So where do I sign up? Despite being terrified of flying, perhaps if I were trained to be pilot, I would overcome my fear and excel in the airline industry instead of this dead end job. Thing is, $100,000 is a bit steep to say the least. In all seriousness, if it were more affordable, I would seriously consider giving it a go. I have had some experience piloting light aircraft, many years ago, so know the basics. Problem is, despite there being a shortage of pilots, it is a highly desirable job, thus the dictums of a capitalist society, ensure that only the wealthy get the opportunity to enjoy such a career. It's ironic that the airlines are now suffering staff shortages, due to their own pig-headedness. Posted by: Sparky of Melbourne 9:38am today
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 03:16
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ha Wyn, makes you want to vomit hey....

ya me to.
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 03:31
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1990s - Spend $30 000 on a CPL. Head bush, compete against scores of other pilots for a below award wage job in Kunnannara. After 4-5 years and 3000 hours if lucky right seat regional on below average wages. Get into QF/AN ? Single figure % chance. Back then someone starting out was more likely not to get a job then to end up flying. The initial expense, loss of income whilst learning, years of low wages and slim chance of success at the end, for some reason put people off

Now jobs are available but 0 - ATPL A320/B737 rating will set you back $100 000. Terms and conditions for most operators except QF mainline still nothing to write home about. REX and National Jet particularly poor. J*/Tiger/Virgin nothing to get excited about.

Imrove the terms and conditions,and spending money on training people is a longer term fix.

Who knows what to do about lack of pilots to cover next weeks roster
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 04:11
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Learning to fly has always been expensive. Relatively speaking no more now than 20 years ago. Management types would have you believe that it is the expense and a failure of government policy that has lead us to where we are today. Colin Rodgers, whilst acknowledgeing the problem, appears to be pushing the same line. With all due respect, A.O.P.A. represents mostly private pilots and operators. They are hardly in a position to understand or have an interest in the failure of the airlines to maintain professional pilot's T&C's!

So why, if it is no more expensive (relatively speaking) and the uncertainty of securing a job has been reduced significantly, have young Australians abandoned the profession? We all know the answer. The problem is untill that fact finally gets through to the operators then we will not see the reversal in the decline of young Australians willing to take up the profession. Pure and simple.
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 04:37
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As one poster on the news website pointed out "in most cases the refueller is making more than the pilots".

Sure I do it now cause I've been doing it for more than a decade. Would i do it all again for this standard of living? I think not. Its good to see that some kids today are at least doing the sums and not being fooled by the so called lure of the skies.

Much better off becoming a sparky or chippie if you are 18.
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 05:13
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I always tend to agree with your posts however the rise in overall earnings as an average has been massive in some sectors while somewhat negligible in others. Ask anyone serving you and your wife when you go out for dinner one night how much their pay has risen over the past 3 years.

Mining and the like who don't have the ability to let their production stop for one hour let alone a day have caused wages to skyrocket. Over here university placing are at a 20 year low, nurses are impossible to get enrolled and engineering places are going empty. All because kids can go straight from school into 6 figure jobs with no formal training.

The old adage of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer has never been more apparent in society than right now. The "relative" you speak of is not as relative as it once was.

No formal (read no "cost") training and drive a truck for 100k or spend 60-100k and get a job paying 60 if you get very lucky. On top of that, the QF pay scale isn't beyond the realms of the everyday persons vision anymore. The job itself doesn't have any romance attached to it anymore that's for sure....
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 05:52
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I feel like I am forever reading the same thing regarding terms and conditions and the pilot shortage. What can I say... we are in an industry that attracts people because they love aviation, and because of this simple fact we will always have poor pay and conditions compared to other industries.

Metro man you pretty much hit the nail on the head regarding the career of a pilot. But let me tell you about friends of mine working in other industries:
1. Works on the mines in the kichen. On about $120k (granted the mines offer higher saliries that the rest of the workforce cant compete with).
2. Accountant - 3 years out of uni. Earning 70k with a promotion within the next month looming which will put him on 100k.
3. The last guy is in IT. 2 years working in the industry on 70k. Just got a job with a different company that doubled his salary to 140k.

I havent been in the industry very long and have been very fortunate to be where I am in the short space of time I have been flying commercially. Still it is no where near where I would be if I was in another industry. For this reason I take my hat off to pilots such as Metro man who really did it tough. But I get paid to fly aeroplanes so I will put up with the bad pay and conditions. From my point of view conditions will improve slightly for experienced pilots. There will still be plenty of wannabe pilots that will sit in the right hand seat for a turbo prop operator on poor pay and conditions. Once this shortage is over, it will go back to how it used to be. Another point I would like to make - this could all be stopped overnight if another 911, SARS or Ansett collapse takes place.

Rant over
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 06:13
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Posts: 1,572 all the industries in all the world nothing is better than the one thing that won't be found in the ground lubbers rich world, the freedom to fly!!!! And that my friends comes at a cost!

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Old 21st Apr 2008, 06:20
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A cost that more and more younger people refuse to pay!
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 06:40
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It does not help when I get a CV of a CPL with 300 hours offering his services for no pay what so ever!!!

This was not 3 years ago, but 3 weeks ago.

When will these jokers ever learn
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 08:31
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Gidday Ref.

I guess I was talking pure dollars (relative) rather than the growing imbalance of the Rich vs the Poor. And I agree with you. Your observations regarding the higher wages being paid to professionals (not pilots) and the not so professionals, does however highlight the way in which we have been screwed over the last decades. I think more than ever that only one thing will now re-invigorate the profession.

lemel, I take your point about SARS, 911 etc... And I think some managers are using that scenerio as justification not to compete for pilot labour. Just goes to show the lack of leadership at some of these companies. If it does all go south due to some cataclysmic event then mabye some with no grasp of the situation will breath a sigh of relief. If something terrible doesn't happen however, and they continue down this current path, well..., it's not rocket science.
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 09:15
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Surely there can't be any urgency in the shortage of pilots, heard of guys whove been recently knocked back by Qantas Mainline, Virgin Blue, REX and QantasLink......
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 09:57
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I know Airline recruitment can act strangely at times, however...

If you act like you deserve an airline job,
If you are a complete [email protected] at the interview,
if you couldn't fly on instruments to save yourself,
if you can't work out simple maths problems,
if you have no experience.

Any of these items might put you in the reject pile.

If you have any bottle, you will try and try again. You will go away and work somewhere crap for a little while, get a few thousand hours, make some command decisions, see some bad weather, get a bit low on fuel, scare yourself a little, make a few mistakes. Learn.

Eventually you may get a decent job.

Just because there is a shortage doesn't mean recruitment will open the floodgates to every wannabe in the country.
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 12:53
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I hear that there are well over 100 CPL holders working in the mines in WA. What will it take to bring them back to flying?? $$$$$$$$$$$$$

Even IT jobs pay much more... as said above...

paying the jink will go a long way in fixing the problem (?)
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 13:27
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I hear that there are well over 100 CPL holders working in the mines in WA. What will it take to bring them back to flying?? $$$$$$$$$$$$$
$$$$ Exactly, when a Baron driver's on $90 000/year the extra $10 000 for driving a dump truck isn't worth it. Problem is get a taste of a $100 000 income and it's hard to give up. The house, new car and overseas holidays are a real trap especially when you can afford an early retirement if you invest carefully. After a few years you can't take a 50-60% salary cut.

From the March issue of "Australian Aviation"

ATPL numbers 2004 - 6025
2007 - 6226

During the three year period 1198 new ATPLs were issued but the total increase was only 201. Therefore 997 dropped out of the system. These were likely to have been older, more experienced pilots who were qualified for good jobs overseas, retired, lost their medical or moved on to other things.

CPL numbers 2001 - 6712
2007 - 3686

A decrease of 45% in six years

PPL numbers 2004 - 15 498
2007 - 11 448

A very serious weakening of the food chain as the reduced number of CPL holders translates into a similarly reduced number of ATPL holders a few years down the track.

QF may have to reduce their minimums and widen the net a bit, but being most peoples number one choice, should still get crew.

Right seat fillers, especially with the new multi crew licence will take about a year to produce.

Who's going to be in the left hand seat with the operators who need the experience but can't offer QF conditions ?

Last edited by Metro man; 21st Apr 2008 at 13:39.
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 22:13
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"If you act like you deserve an airline job,
If you are a complete [email protected] at the interview,
if you couldn't fly on instruments to save yourself,
if you can't work out simple maths problems,
if you have no experience."

Getting a few of those lately winsock!

Metro man.

The last last sentence of your post hit the nail squarely. No amount of Cadets or low time wannabes will solve the problem of the shortage of left seaters or the lack of suitable candidates for command positions.
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 22:48
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The numbers are deceptive


The thing that worries me the most about the numbers you posted is the fact that of all the CPL's issued in 2007, I would say that less than a thousand went to Australian residents.

The school down the road from me put through close to a hundred foreign students last year alone. This year they will put through only about sixty but this is because of the rise of the dollar more than anything else.

Metro, please tell me I'm wrong and that those numbers for CPL's were local students only.

Alot of schools seem only interested in training overseas students now so even if you wanted to get in to it, your a low priority.
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Old 21st Apr 2008, 23:25
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Good point

I believe the numbers posted are for active licence holders, ie currrent medical. It will be interesting to see how the numbers drop again once the foreign student has returned home and obtained his own countries licence, letting the Aussie one lapse.
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